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Time to end war - and time to clean up after.


PRINCESS Diana stepped out of line this day in 1997 and nearly got herself blown up, metaphorically speaking, when she called for an international ban on landmines.

After a visit to Angola to see landmine victims, she angered government ministers with her comments. They considered her appeal out of step with policy.

The Junior Defence Minister, Earl Howe, described the princess as a 'loose cannon', ill-informed on the issue of anti-personnel landmines. Other Conservative backbenchers were more outspoken.

Peter Viggers, Tory member of the Defence Select Committee, said: "We all know landmines and other weapons are vicious and nasty. The question is how best to negotiate so they are not used in future.

"The Government's policy on this has been an extremely careful one and the statements made by the Princess of Wales have not been in line with that policy." The government at the time was involved in international negotiations for a worldwide ban on landmines, but in 1997 the Army was still using them.

Princess Diana was in Angola as a guest of the International Red Cross, which had been pressing for a landmine ban. Labour welcomed the intervention by the princess. It was backing calls for an international moratorium on the use of anti-personnel mines.

Shadow defence spokesman David Clark said: "I think we should all welcome the fact she has gone to Angola and she has tried to warn the world of the dangers of these terrible weapons. I think we should be applauding what she's doing."

Later that year, on August 31, the princess died in a fatal car crash in Paris.

Labour came to power in May 1997. Shortly after, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, promised to ratify the international Ottawa convention on banning landmines in time for the anniversary of her death. The convention came into force on March 1, 1999 but a number of key countries refused to sign, including the United States, Russia and China.

Currently, 156 states have banned landmines, but 37 states have not signed.. ON this day in 1973, the curtain started to come down on the Vietnam War.

President Richard Nixon ordered a ceasefire, which principally meant a halt to American bombing in North Vietnam, following peace talks in Paris.

The decision came after Dr Henry Kissinger, the president's assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington yesterday from France with a draft peace proposal.

Representatives from North and South Vietnam and the United States had been at the negotiating table and peace resulted from compromises on all sides. At the time, many political issues remained to be resolved. Although attacks against the North had stopped, air assaults were continuing against communist forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Communist negotiators in Paris were calling for the ceasefire to be extended to these areas.

President Nixon's special envoy to Saigon, General Alexander Haig, was in the South Vietnamese capital briefing the president on the 25-article peace agreement worked out in Paris. Initial discussions with President Nguyen Van Thieu lasted nearly three hours. Afterwards, the president ordered a five-man delegation to fly to France to consider the proposals in more detail. Reaction in Washington was cautious. Senator Barry Goldwater, who previously supported the American role in Vietnam, said: "I can't say peace is at hand, but I feel that we're making progress." A week later, Dr Kissinger returned to Paris for further meetings with the North Vietnamese delegation.

On January 23, a ceasefire was agreed to take effect from midnight on January 27. The settlement called for the eventual reunification of Vietnam, permitted the South Vietnamese and Vietcong troops to remain in place and provided for the release of all American prisoners of war within 60 days - on condition American troops withdrew within the same period of time.

No mention was made of the presence of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.

It spelled the end of American involvement in the Vietnam war, which had begun on February 12, 1955.

Statistics published by the US Defence Department in January showed that 45,933 Americans were killed in action, 181,483 members of the South Vietnam armed forces died, and 5,224 foreign allies were killed.

The North Vietnamese and the Vietcong suffered by far the worst, with 922,290 fatalities.

The last American prisoner was freed on March 30, 1973 and Vietnam was finally reunited on April 30, 1975.


TREADING CAREFULLY: Princess Diana in an Angolan minefield. WE'RE OUT: US soldiers being airlifted in Vietnam.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:6ANGO
Date:Jan 15, 2011
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